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 HEALTH & MEDICAL INFO

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We, at HSA, are not veterinarians.

The following information is purely to provide insight and awareness of the most common ailments and possible interim tips that may prevent the issue from escalating until you can get to your exotic animal vet.

PLEASE ALWAYS SEEK CONSULTATION WITH AN EXOTICS VET.

 

It is important to observe your hamster closely and give regular little health-checks in order to prevent any health issues potentially escalating to a level that may not be treatable or possibly require expensive treatment that could have been avoided if the matter had been caught early enough.

Please do not allow prolonged suffering that will ultimately affect other aspects of your hamster’s health or that could result in a painful death.

There is no such excuse as "waiting for payday" to go to the vet. Just because a hamster is small, do not think that it's pain and suffering is any less than that of your cat/dog, or even your own child....would you wait to seek treatment for any of those?

WHAT TO DO IN AN EMERGENCY: 

  • TRY TO STAY CALM! Your hamster may pick up on your distress.

  • If he is stuck somehow, see if you can gently free him while trying to support him to prevent further injury (preferably get someone to help).

  • Note down the signs of your concerns or, better still, take pics & videos, and call your exotics vet -

    • The vet may ask you to send these via whatsapp/email for initial emergency assessment to decide on the best course of action

    • If you are only going to the vet the next morning, the videos will also be useful to show your hamster's demeanor, since he may be in an adrenalised state from the journey and travel cage that could result in "normal" active behaviour to mask any illness, pain, or suffering.

  • If you do not have an exotics vet in your town, it is possible to supply your regular vet with the contact details of one to consult with. 

  • Never self-medicate your hamster without first speaking to a vet.

  • Each medication is different and acts in different ways on different animals. Some medications should not be given in certain situations and can make things worse.

FLU
COMMON ILLNESSES

HUMAN ILLNESSES

Since hamsters can easily catch our colds, flu's, and other transmittable illnesses, apparently even Covid, from us.

We suggest that you exercise extreme caution and preferably get someone else to handle their feeding and habitat matters while ill. 

If no other person is available to see to the basic needs of the hamster, we suggest that you wear a mask, clean shirt, and wash your hands & arms really well before and during attending to the food and such, and also minimise handling the hamster.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT USE HAND SANITISER BEFORE HANDLING YOUR HAMSTER, THESE PRODUCTS CONTAIN ALCOHOL, WHICH IS VERY DANGEROUS FOR HAMSTERS. EVEN IF YOU CANNOT SMELL THE SANITISER ANY MORE, WASH YOUR HANDS!

COMMON HAMSTER HEALTH ISSUES

AVERAGE ADULT WEIGHT

SYRIAN/TEDDY: 120 – 250g

DWARFS: 40 – 60g

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  • These are just average weights and, like us, some have a larger/smaller build than others and may differ either side of these averages, e.g. a large Syrian could be healthy at 300g, while a runt could be healthy at 100g.

  • Your hamster should stay the same weight from about 6 months until 18 to 24 months old. Many start losing some grams as they get older.

  • A diamond scale or small diet scale should be useful, otherwise your vet will be able to weigh him/her. However, if you don’t have a scale at all (and you obviously don’t want to put the little one through a journey to the vet just for a weigh-in), and you are sure your ham is a healthy weight, try to get a decent picture of your hamster at 6-8 months in your own hand to refer back to.

  • Any sudden or extreme weight loss is cause for concern and you should consult with your exotics vet.  

WEIGHT
BITE

IF YOUR HAMSTER BITES YOU

(for serious bites that actually draw blood...not little nips that don't break skin)

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Many of us get bitten at least once or twice by our hamsters, and some typical reasons could be:

  • Pushing your luck too soon with a new arrival (please remember to exercise patience and let a new hamster settle in before trying to handle it).

  • It gets nervous during the first stages of taming (for helpful guidance, rather see the Taming Your Hamster page first) 

  • Cage aggression (insecurity due to feeling trapped and vulnerable in a cage that is too small). Make sure you have a proper sized habitat.

  • Your young child isn't being supervised during play sessions and is holding it too tightly or playing too roughly/excitably with it, and the hamster is frightened or hurt (hamsters are not ideal pets for children under10 years old),

  • It hasn't woken up properly, or is still sleeping, and got a fright when you touched or tried to pick it up (sometimes they also get a fright if they wake up and hear you messing about in the habitat but are unaware that it is you....please talk softly while you are doing this so he knows it's you).

  • The hamster was unaware of your approach and mistook your hand for a predator. 

  • You have been handling food and your hamster mistakes your finger as a treat (remember that they don't see very well, so do wash your hands first!).

  • There is pain somewhere. If biting is out of character for your fully awake tame hamster, please give it a thorough check-up to see if there are any sores or lumps/bumps, or if this behaviour continues without any obvious signs of an ailment, take to your exotics vet immediately. 

  • TRY TO BE PREPARED TO BE BITTEN WHILE TAMING, SO THAT YOU DON'T GET TOO STARTLED. Although you could indeed get a fright, remember that you are not going to be savaged to death by this little creature!

  • DO NOT SHAKE OR FLING THE HAMSTER to get it to release the grip on you, because you could cause it to get injured. Just lower the hamster to the bedding in the habitat or playpen. They generally release you shortly and won't hold you captive forever. 

  • If it doesn’t automatically release you, just gently & calmly prise it away.

  • DO NOT SHOUT at your hamster. He won't understand and it will only scare or alienate him, and you're more likely to get bitten again.

  • Don't panic! Hamsters kept inside your home in a clean habby pose extremely low risks of you catching any diseases from them. There is no need to rush off for a tetanus jab or to the doctor! The bites may often be painful, but you shouldn’t worry too much.

The following treatments are recommended (if it's a really bad bite, particularly in one of those awkward spots that take longer to heal):

  • Wash your hands and the wound.

  • Use a disinfectant on the wound, like hydrogen peroxide, surgical spirits, Savlon, or Dettol.

  • Soaking in warm Epsom Salt water can also help the wound heal.

  • If it is still bleeding, use a plain plaster until flow has stopped but DO NOT put on a plaster with antibiotic ointment since some infections are resistant to these and will flourish in the dark, moist environment.

  • Apply another dab of Savlon or Dettol occasionally (or a soak in Epsom Salt water if it looks inflamed after a few hours, which helps to draw out potential infection and reduces inflammation).

The above should see your wound healed within a a day or few but, if not, the following are signs that the infection is spreading and you should see a doctor:

  • There swelling that won't go down within 2 or 3 days in spite of the standard treatment above.

  • The wound has become inflamed and warm to the touch.

  • There is redness extending from the area of the original bite down the finger to your hand.

  • You develop a fever.

SCRATCHES & ABRASION

SCRATCHES & ABRASIONS

No matter how careful you are, these can still occur from time-to-time. Sometimes the cause is inexplicable, other times it could be due to over-grooming, relentless scratching because of itchiness (mites, 'sweating' caused by a plastic bedroom, allergy, etc.), sharp/rough edges on an accessory, being poked by a stalk (e.g. hay or dried botanical stem).  Try to find the cause to prevent recurrence. 

  • Do not use any ointments unless advised by your exotics vet. It could cause illness if ingested during grooming, or you could make a simple wound worse!

  • If there is a deep gash with flesh exposed and/or profuse bleeding, get to a vet IMMEDIATELY! 

  • Do not administer an anti-inflammatory if there is active bleeding. It thins the blood and hinders clotting.  

 

For simple skin scratches or abrasions, and where any bleeding has stopped, it is important that these wounds do not become infected. Some people use diluted low-volume peroxide, but you want to be careful not to cause stinging during treatment that may result in your hamster becoming stressed, or developing a fear of being handled by you. Instead, you can try one of these milder remedies that appear to be really effective and gentle: 

  • THYME TEA (Rooibos & Thyme saline solution) (see recipe)

  • COLLOIDAL SILVER LIQUID (Silverlab brand only) 

  • PLAIN CONTACT LENS SOLUTION

  • SALINE SOLUTION 

IF THERE IS NO SIGN OF IMPROVEMENT AFTER 2 OR 3 DAYS OF USING ONE OF THESE HOME REMEDIES, OR THE WOUND BECOMES INFECTED OR DEVELOPS A LUMP,

PLEASE TAKE YOUR HAMSTER TO YOUR EXOTICS VET ASAP.

APPLICATION OF WHICHEVER SOLUTION YOU ARE USING:​

  • Decant a little solution into a small container (a shot glass works well). You do not want to contaminate the main lot by double-dipping 

  • Either use a cotton bud or folded cotton pad to apply the solution to the abrasion, or fill up an empty nasal spray bottle and squirt onto the wound, being careful not to get the hamster too wet. 

  • Apply 2 or 3 times a day and discard the rest of the solution from each session.

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THYME TEA can be used as an antiseptic to treat minor cuts & scrapes:

½ cup fresh Thyme Herb sprigs (available from most grocery stores)

1 Rooibos teabag

pinch to ½ tsp of Salt 

Boiling Water

  • Place the fresh thyme and rooibos teabag in a mug and cover with boiling water.

  • Remove the teabag after two minutes.

  • Let the rest steep until the tea has cooled, but for at least 15 minutes in an emergency, stirring occasionally.

  • Strain and add the salt. Stir to dissolve.

  • Pour into a clean bottle or jar and store in the fridge, removing a little for each treatment session.

  • Toss all the tea away after a few days. 

Note that thyme should not be used with a pregnant hamster.

THYME TEA
COLLOIDAL SILVER
EYE INFECTION

EYES: INFECTION, IRRITATION, & INJURY

If you spot anything amiss going on with your hamster's eye/s, you should take immediate action. While eye infections/irritations appear to be a relatively common occurrence from time-to-time, if there is an obvious gash, a LOT of oozing mucus, swelling/bulging, or bleeding, please see your exotics vet immediately!

Common causes of eye issues:

  • Allergy to wood shavings (particularly pine). We recommend that you stick to a safe paper bedding to avoid ongoing suffering.

  • A particle of sand or dust from the hamsters sand bath/pit or another substrate can occasionally get lodged in the eye, causing irritation. Dusty products like torn facial tissues, 2-ply toilet paper, powdery substrates, etc. should be avoided.

  • Elderly hamsters are naturally susceptible to problems that cause the eye to weep and stick shut during sleep. She may need a little assistance with dissolving the crust.

  • Being poked by a sharp edge on an accessory, stalk (e.g. hay or dried botanical stem), or sharp piece of wood in a substrate, etc. Try to find the cause to prevent recurrence.

  • Sometimes a hamster will have a torn eyelid from fighting with another hamster in a pet shop, or being kept together by an owner. Often this results in regular flare-ups of irritation throughout the hamster's life and you will need to treat every time you see re-occurrence. 

  • Viral infection can eventually result in further illness, affecting lungs or the brain, and can lead to the death of the hamster. Since viral infections are contagious, the hamster will need to be quarantined from other pets and you will need to ensure that your hands are properly cleaned with F10-SC Disinfectant after handling or treating him until the ailment has fully cleared.

FOR MINOR IRRITATIONS (or emergencies until the vet is open), you can try one of these mild home solutions that appear to be effective and gentle:

  • VET'S BEST CLEAN EYE ROUND PADS

  • SALINE ROOIBOS EYE DROPS (see recipe)

  • COLLOIDAL SILVER LIQUI(Silverlab brand only) 

  • MANUKA HONEY & MILK EYEDROPS

  • PLAIN SALINE SOLUTION 

IF THERE IS NO SIGN OF IMPROVEMENT AFTER 2 DAYS OF USING ONE OF THESE HOME REMEDIES, OR THE EYE STARTS TO BULGE OR BLEED,

PLEASE TAKE YOUR HAMSTER TO YOUR EXOTICS VET ASAP.

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A little bump on the eyelid is often a harmless little STY that will disappear on it's own in a week or two. It can be assisted with the milk & honey remedy to speed up recovery and prevent itching and/or irritation.

However, if the surrounding area becomes swollen at any stage or inflamed, PLEASE take your hamster to your exotics vet ASAP for proper veterinary treatment.

An eye that has difficulty in opening (or CRUSTED over) is anything from mild irritation due to a particle of dust, to an allergy infection (sticky eye/conjunctivitis), to a more serious scratch. For irritation or sticky eye, use the saline tea or milk honey solution. For a scratch in the eye or on the eyelid, we suggest taking to your exotics vet ASAP.

Elderly hamsters often get crusty eyes.

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COLLOIDAL SILVER LIQUID is very gentle but apparently not as effective as the  milk or rooibos remedies.

Available from DisChem, Clicks, and health shops.

No dilution is necessary.

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With eye issues, we strongly recommend seeing your exotics vet before trying any home treatment, since your hamster may very well need antibiotics and/or special antibiotic eyedrops.

VET'S BEST CLEAN EYE ROUND PADS are handy to keep in your first aid kit. Next time you're at your local vet, ask for a tub (no prescription required).

Moistened and ready to use.

Cleans discharge and safely wipes away any weeping from excessive eyedrops. 

Use one clean pad for each eye to prevent spread of any infection - for little hamster eyes, you can cut each pad in half.

APPLICATION OF WHICHEVER SOLUTION YOU ARE USING:​

  • Decant a little solution into a small clean container (a shot glass works well). You do not want to double-dip into the main container, which will contaminate the lot with bacteria, etc. 

  • Either use a cotton bud to apply the solution to the abrasion, or the point of a folded cotton pad.

  • An empty sterilized eyedropper bottle can also be used for direct application, or to squeeze a drop directly onto the cotton bud/pad. This may also help to keep bacteria out of the solutions. 

  • Gently wipe the eye. Repeat with a clean bud/pad if particularly crusty, to help soften and dissolve the crustiness without rubbing, which could scratch the eye and cause further irritation.

  • If both eyes are infected, use a new bud/pad for each).

  • Apply this treatment 2 or 3 times a day.

  • Discard the rest of the decanted solution from each session.

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ROOIBOS-SALINE EYEDROPS work well for sticky eye. Saline helps to dissolve crustiness and is also sterile. Rooibos has excellent healing benefits. 

1 Rooibos teabag

1 (250ml) cup Boiled Water or Distilled Water

1/2 teaspoon Salt

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  • In a sterile glass container, steep the teabag in the hot boiled/distilled water for a few minutes to make a weak tea.

  • Dissolve the salt in the tea when the teabag has been removed.

  • Allow to cool, decant into a sterile glass jar/bottle if necessary, seal, and store in the fridge. (Make a fresh batch every 2 or 3 days, if ongoing treatment is required.)

  • Remove a little for each treatment session.

  • Toss all away when the ailment has cleared up, or once your vet has prescribed a more medical treatment.

MILK & HONEY EYEDROPS 

Honey acts as a mild antiseptic/antibiotic.

Works well for a sty, conjunctivitis, or dust particle irritation. 

Manuka is best, but your local raw organic honey can work too.

  • Mix milk and honey in equal portions into a small shallow pan.

  • Bring to a warm simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture is completely blended. Allow to cool down and store in the fridge for a day or two.

  • Use an eyedropper and place a drop or two into the affected eye/s.

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EYEDROPS
BUMBLEFOOT

BUMBLEFOOT

The main cause of this incredibly painful condition (often irreversible) is from bad wheels, and injuries from runged/barred levels and ladders that are not covered.

It starts with tissue becoming infected when the skin on the feet is abraded by an unsuitable surface or the foot/toe gets injured when getting caught in a bar, rung, mesh, or crossbar. If left too long without veterinary medication and correction of the cause, the infection will reach the delicate bones in the foot or leg and the hamster's leg will need to be amputated. 

  • It is important to regularly check your hamster's feet, regardless of which wheel you have since some hamsters can still develop bumblefoot from prolonged running on a hard surface, like a plastic wheel.

  • Get him to an exotics vet as soon as you notice anything that looks like a sore under or around his feet.

  • Remove the wheel until the infection has cleared up and, if you also suspect that this is the cause, consider lining it with something soft, like a lightly textured place mat or slightly flattened corrugated cardboard.

  • Never use anything too abrasive, like sandpaper or hard carpeting, on the wheel since this will also result in abrasion and bumblefoot.

If you are not going to bother with a correct wheel, rather do not provide one at all, and dedicate yourself to providing sufficient exercise via lots more playtimes.

If you are not prepared to provide a proper habitat with safe platforms and a safe wheel, don't get a hamster (or please rehome the one you have).

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COLDS & RESPIRATORY

RESIRATORY INFECTIONS 

(COLDS & PNEUMONIA)

Hamsters can catch respiratory infections and sniffles (cold) quite easily and delayed veterinary treatment results in Pneumonia, which is often fatal. Causes can be:

  • You are using a wire cage which is exposed to drafts.

  • The habitat is in direct sun and the temperature drops too drastically at night.

  • Not enough nesting material to keep warm in winter.

  • The hamster has gotten wet (please don't bath your hamster).

  • The bedding was wet for too long (tipped water bowl or leaking bottle). 

  • Fungal spores from bad bedding that has gotten damp and moldy. 

  • Pine shavings.

  • Bad potty or bath litter that is too fine and dusty.

  • You handled the hamster while you were ill (yes, we can infect them).

  • High humidity in the habitat (live plants, inadequate ventilation, etc.)

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There is no "home remedy" for this and you need to get the hamster to your 

exotics vet ASAP as they can die from such infections if not treated quickly.

Antibiotics are usually the only medication for a respiratory infection.

  • A small sprig of fresh bruised thyme in the habby or bedroom is said to assist in helping to somewhat relieve respiratory difficulty. Maybe try this until you get to the vet in the morning, and for the duration of the illness after the vet visit, but please don't rely on this as the sole treatment! 

  • Don't forget to add some Protexin, or any other small-animal probiotic, to your medicine haul (this will help restore the immunity system) but please see the instructions on how to use this with antibiotics. 

  • After seeing the vet, add a few drops of Rooibos Tea to the drinking water for 2 or 3 days and provide a small piece of fresh parsley leaf as a tonic. If he doesn't seem to like rooibos tea, rather remove it so he doesn't get dehydrated. Never use any of those awful tonics that are sold in pet shops!

  • Give your hamster Brunel MultiVit Syrup as suggested.

  • If your hamster has had sniffles and has dried/wet mucus on it's nose/face, use a cotton pad dampened in a little tepid water or thyme tea to gently clean the area twice a day (don't drench the cotton pad - you don't want to wet or drown him).

  • Keep him warm.

  • Correct what ever situation may have caused the illness.

antibiotics

ANTIBIOTICS

Many ailments cannot be resolved without antibiotics.

Only a vet can prescribe antibiotics for animals. 

If there is no exotics vet in your location, inquire beforehand if any of the regular vets perhaps know something about critters, or if they have contact with an exotics vet that they could get information from, relating to dosages, correct meds, etc.

It is very important to ensure that your hamster gets proper treatment in order to save it's life.

  • When it comes to antibiotics, this is usually in liquid formYour vet may also give a booster antibiotic injection to kick-start the meds.

  • Be aware that some hamsters may have a reaction at the jab spot, which can be difficult to heal, and we therefore recommend that you arm yourself with one of the remedies mentioned above in the Scratches & Abrasions topic, and start treating immediately if you notice any inflammation.

It is also very important to give your hammy probiotics during the course of antibiotics, but not within 2 hours before/after the meds.

  • Probiotics are usually in the form of PROTEXIN or PRO-LYTE.  

  • Alternatively, if you cannot administer the probiotic during the course of antibiotics, ensure that your hamster has a course after the meds are completed.

  • Make sure your hamster has plenty food and water available.

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  • Pro-Lyte is particularly useful if your hamster is suffering from dehydration or lethargy, and can be given during antibiotic treatment with the same intervals as Protexin (ask your vet which would be the best for it's condition).

  • If your hamster appears to be refusing to drink water, a few drops at a time can be given via a syringe or dropper (with or without the probiotic).

MITES, FLEAS, RINGWORM

MITES, LICE & FLEAS

Invisible mites occur naturally on most hamsters and, unless noticeably affecting the hamster, generally do not cause harm.  However, when there are noticeable symptoms this is then an infestation.

Causes - Infestation can be a result of:

  • Poorly set up habitats and bad hygiene standards.

  • Hatching nits that may be lurking in commercial bedding & substrates, and sometimes food mixes & treats, that you haven't frozen before use.

  • If you have/had other pets in your home, there is a good possibility that you may have mites and/or fleas in the house that will travel to the habitat or be transferred from you to the hamster during playtime.

  • Hamsters with low-immunity are most susceptible to recurring mite infestation.

  • If the human handler has lice, these can also be transmitted during cuddles.

Why do we not want infestation?

Your hamster is always susceptible to getting mites, fleas, and even ticks, from the numerous sources. These pests derive their nutrition from the host after they burrow and lodge themselves firmly under the skin, hang on to hair root follicles, and even embed themselves inside the ears. There they will thrive and breed extensively while they draw on the host’s blood, feed on dead skin cells, and also on oils secreted by sebaceous glands on their epidermises.

SYMPTOMS:

Unfortunately, many types of mites cannot be seen with the naked eye but, if you are using the correct bedding and have taken precautions (e.g. freezing substrates and food before use), the following is often a clue that your hamster has mites:

  • The hamster is itching/scratching excessively (more than usual, or so much so that you can see he is visibly uncomfortable and distressed).

  • There are patches of fur disappearing.

  • Crustiness on the ears and around the nose and even around the eyes.

  • Despite the microscopic size of some, you may be able to spot them if you sift through the hair follicles or if you darken the room completely and search for mites using a powerful torchlight. Other mites look like small round red or black dots. Fleas, lice, and the types of visible mites are obviously more easy to spot.

PRECAUTION & PREVENTION

We recommend a precautionary dose of mite treatment for a new hamster that you have rescued or gotten from a pet shop where conditions were dirty or overcrowded.

However, we suggest that, in such circumstances, the hamster is first taken for a checkup at your nearest exotics vet, and due to the common possibility that the hamster may be pregnant (don't always trust that the person has correctly determined the gender!) 

Under many circumstances, mites/fleas can perfectly shelter themselves in the hamster’s bedding and toys, even in the rods of a wire cage and the joins of a habitat.

  • When getting a new habitat or travel cage, particularly 2nd hand ones, a good clean with F10-SC is necessary and then place it in direct sunlight for the day. We recommend also using Vetafarm Avian Insect Liquidator.

  • It is also very important that you freeze all substrates and food for 48-72 hours before using. Freezing will generally kill any ganonies that may be lurking or ready to hatch in ideal conditions.

EASIEST TREATMENT:

  • Get KITTEN & PUPPY REVOLUTION (NOT THE PLUS) from any vet shop and some pet shops.

  • Place one drop on the back between the shoulder blades. 
    If you aren't confident about accurately getting one drop from the pipette, get an insulin syringe from any pharmacy, and draw out 0.010 to 0.016 ml depending if Dwarf or Syrian. 

  • Repeat this 2 or 3 times, once a week (i.e. 1 drop today,  another 1 drop in 7 days, and another in 7 days, etc.).
    The repeat doses are important to break the reproductive cycle of the pests and hatching nits.

  • Keep the rest of the Revolution in the fridge for the next round/s.

  • During treatment, it is also a good idea to perhaps put the hamster on a course of Protexin Soluble in order to keep the immunity up, and balance any tummy issues too, followed by Anima-Strath Granules and/or CBD Oil to help the skin and fur recover.

THESE DOSAGES ARE FOR ADULT HAMSTERS ONLY.

PLEASE CONSULT YOUR EXOTICS VET BEFORE TREATING BABIES AND PREGNANT/SUSPECTED PREGNANT FEMALES.

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SEVERE INFESTATION: 
When you start treatment, thoroughly clean the habitat to get rid of most of the bugs right now.

  • Vetafarm Avian Insect Liquidator is recommended for spraying the habitat and items to kill the bugs and nits. Let it stand for a while and then, unlike for birds, wipe down the habitat to get rid of any residue and scrub it off the items. Do not spray it onto your hamster!

  • Replace all substrates (bedding, nesting, sand, coco-peat, etc.). 

  • Freeze whatever you can for 48 hours. Make sure the new substrates are not infested (it is important to try and determine the original source of any infestation).

  • Thereafter, *clean the bedroom/nest and sand potty/bath every day for a week with new nesting material to make your hamster more comfortable by getting rid of the current live mites.

(*) EARLY DETECTION:
You do not need to replace everything, but simply clean the habitat and then tend to the nest and sand every day. (Freezing re-usable substrates also helps)

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GOOD NATURAL REMEDY (found by a member of HSA who reports that it worked extremely well).

  • Put a few roughly crushed cloves of garlic in half a cup of olive oil.

  • Heat the oil until it is warm, but not so hot that it starts to cook the garlic (you simply want to infuse the oil with garlic).

  • Strain the bits, pour into a clean jar, and use the oil.

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  • Place a few little drops around the edges of the habitat and large items every day or two, preferably where you can reach to wipe clean.

  • Also a good idea to smear a little on the outside of the habitat by the joins.

  • After a few days, clean the habitat and everything in it (apparently there will be a lot of dead mites). Put another few smears of the oil at the outside of the clean habitat by the joins after cleaning off the old oil. 

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Chickens are notorious for getting mites and farmers note that mites do not like the taste of garlic and yeast in the blood of the animal. It therefore makes sense that the above garlic oil would work well but, since we cannot feed garlic to hamsters, we can probably improve the remedy by getting yeast into the hamster via a course of Anima-Strath Granules or De-Bittered Brewers Yeast.

KITTEN REVOLUTION
RINGWORM

RINGWORM

Ringworm is a contagious skin infection caused by fungus that bores into the skin and hair follicles of a hamster's ears and body.

SYMPTOMS:

  • Hair loss with lesions that tend to be roundish. Starts on the face and spreads to other parts.

  • Scaling and crusting.

  • Redness of the skin.

  • Unlike mites, ringworm causes minimal or no itching.

  • Can initially present very similar to mite infestation and is therefore often easily misdiagnosed.

CAUSES:

  • One of the main causes of ringworm occurrence is excessive wetness and humidity:

    • Growing plants in the habitat.

    • Inadequate ventilation.

    • Leaking water bottles causing substrates to constantly be damp.

    • Condensation or moisture on the nesting material as a result of using plastic bedroom houses, plastic tubes, and even unventilated wooden bedroom boxes.

  • Can enter the habitat via you from another pet or human that is infected.

  • Overcrowding & stress (in the case of breeders and pet shops).

  • Spores can survive for up to two years, so do ensure cleanliness. Be sure to thoroughly clean a newly acquired habitat or travel cage.

DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT:

(Note that ringworm on rodents does not glow under ultra-violet light like it does on other animals).

  • Left unattended, the hamster will become increasingly ill, suffer, and die.

  • The vet may give an injection of Ivermectin and prescribe topical antifungals & antiseptics, as well as an oral antifungal.

  • skin scraping may need to be taken and tested for ringworm or another infection.

  • The habitat must be disinfected at least twice a week. All materials that cannot be disinfected should be removed to prevent reinfection. Bleach can be used to clean, but should be rinsed off before putting the hamster back. It may be useful to have two habitats in order to switch from one to the other for cleaning.

  • Ensure that no cross-contamination occurs to you and other family members and pets.

  • DO NOT USE PLASTIC TUBES & BEDROOMS, OR UNVENTILATED WOODEN BEDROOMS.

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TEETH

This is something that many hamster owners worry about, often needlessly but still a very important part of their health to be aware of and check on regularly, since those little gnashers are constantly growing and can have or cause issues.

COLOUR: Healthy teeth are yellowy-brown (lighter in younger hamsters and darker when they're older).

  • White teeth is usually a sign that certain vitamins and minerals are lacking from the diet, and you need to check that you are providing a properly balanced good quality dry mix as well as a variety of fresh foods (but DO NOT even consider putting in one of those mineral blocks or commercial tonics).

  • A tooth that breaks and regrows will often be white or lighter than the others, but should darken as it gets older.

  • Dark brown or black teeth could be a sign of decay and the matter should be seen to by an exotics vet.

OVERGROWN TEETH and PREVENTION 

There are the odd few hamsters whose teeth just do grow fast, in spite of your best efforts to provide suitable hard/tough gnawable items and treats and will unfortunately require regular visits to your exotics vet for trimming.

If left unchecked, misaligned or overgrown teeth can eventually grow through lips and pouches, and even into the brain.

However, in most cases the following should keep those choppers from becoming too long:

  • Whimzees (dog chews) are the best things that happened for hamsters! Most love them, but for the odd hamster who doesn't take to them, try to find other items.

  • Hard seed gnaws and nibble rolls are usually also a great hit (consider our easy DIY recipes).

  • Apple, pear, willow, or mulberry, sekelbos sticks, and other wooden items in the habitat may also peak some interest, or you could coat them in a light film of peanut butter, soak in fruit juice, etc. to make a possibly bland item more enticing.

  • Thick strong cardboard, tubes, eggboxes, etc. are a great delight to destroy and often on the base and walls of the bedroom appear to be a good spot, but anywhere really, and as much as you want. 

  • Treats hidden inside cardboard toys or shreddable mats could also work well (see DIY page).

BROKEN OR MISALIGNED TEETH. 

If left unchecked, misaligned & overgrown teeth can eventually grow through lips and pouches, and even into the brain.

Causes:

  • Bar chewing!!!! 

  • Birth defect: - genetics - weak teeth due to lack of good nutrition during the mother's gestation & lactation and bad early diet as a baby/young hamster - or deformed jaw.

  • A fall onto a hard surface and landing in an awkward landing position. 

  • Hydrocephalis - excess fluid on the brain (such handicapped hamsters will need specific lifelong care).

Misaligned teeth can prevent the teeth from being able to meet properly in the right positions to get naturally worn down, resulting in difficulty to eat properly.

A broken tooth can result in the opposite tooth growing too long into the "open space" and the hamster will eventually not be able to grasp and eat it's food.

In such cases, a visit to your exotics vet will be required to trim the teeth properly.

In extreme and/or rare cases it may be necessary for teeth to be extracted and a special diet of soft foods will be required thereafter.

Left untreated the hamster will starve to death, or die as a result of brain damage or infection.

Some very experienced owners know how to trim the teeth themselves but, unless you have been trained by your vet to do this properly, PLEASE do not attempt it yourself because you could cause further damage. 

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~ Courtesy of Small Pet Select ~

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~ Courtesy of Hamster Spruce ~

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LENGTH

The bottom teeth are usually about 3 or 4 times longer than the top teeth, as shown in the picture. This is the healthy teeth standard. 

"HOW LONG IS TOO LONG? Sometimes it is difficult for a person to determine if their hamster’s teeth are becoming too long or not. One way to assess this is to offer your hamster a treat, e.g. a peanut still in the shell or another similar sized treat (hamster biscuit, piece of rice cake, etc.) Your hamster should be able to take it from you without any difficulty, by grasping the morsel between the upper and lower teeth very easily. Difficulty in opening the jaws/mouth wide enough to grasp the nut, or any attempt to tuck it in behind the elongated teeth may be an indication that the teeth are becoming too long.

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TEETH
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POUCHES

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The pouch cavities go all the way down to your hamster's hips and are like big shopping bags that can hold a surprisingly large amount of things to be transported to various sections of the habitat. Food gets taken to hoarding spots or the bedroom, nesting material gets taken to the nest/bedroom, gnawing objects get taken to the chosen area, etc.

PROBLEMS & COMMON CAUSES

(Prolapse, impaction, and infection)

  • Sticky foods get stuck and left behind (peanut butter, sticky dried fruits, etc.).

  • Fluff or threads from fabric and fluffy nesting get caught on the rough surface/folds resulting in foods and small seeds getting trapped in the fluff or threads.

  • Sometimes, the hamster can also over-stuff his pouches and there is difficulty to expel all of the items. Or a larger object shifts into an awkward position, preventing it (and anything else behind it) to be emptied out and the pouch is then impacted. 

  • Sharp foods/objects scratching or cutting the inside of the pouch, particularly if the hamster is handled while it's pouches are full, or if it tries to squeeze through a gap that is too tight to accommodate the extra width.

Impaction & Infection: If a mass remains stuck inside, an infection will develop, eventually causing additional ear and eye infections. 

A scratched/pierced pouch may not initially be noticeable but will develop an abscess.

Pouch Prolapse: Often an irritation inside causes so much stress that the hamster scratches too desperately to expel the debris, and the pouch dislodges.

Your hamster will need to go to your exotics vet IMMEDIATELY for the pouch to be cleared and stitched back in place. 

If the hamster is not treated by a vet immediately, the pouch will start becoming gangrenous resulting in part of it having to be cut away. A pouch left protruding and untreated will make it impossible for the hamster to eat or drink, and infection will also set in and end up poisoning the hamster. Whichever way, the hamster will die an unpleasant death. 

NEVER LEAVE A PROLAPSED, IMPACTED OR INFECTED POUCH UNTREATED!

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SOME OBVIOUS SIGNS OF PROBLEMS: 

  • Weeping, swollen eye. 

  • Angry area under/in the ear.

  • The pouch stays full for more than a day, or the cheek looks swollen.

  • Foul odour emanating from the face area or mouth.

  • Obviously if the pouch is protruding out of the mouth (prolapse).

  • Blood in the mouth or on the expelled food.

  • Excessive scratching at or behind the pouch.

Any such signs need to be attended to by an EXOTICS VET​ ASAP! Early treatment could mean a simple flushing instead of an operation or major medication. THERE ARE NO HOME REMEDIES.

If the cheek pouch has prolapsed, please make ensure that it does not dry out until you get to your vet. 

PREVENT POUCH PROBLEMS:

  • Avoid fluffy nesting and all fabrics in the habitat!

  • Avoid large dollops of sticky substances, e.g. nut butter and jam (although butters can melt, they can still leave an oily residue that will become rancid).

  • Opt for fresh fruit instead, not sticky dried fruit (including the bits that are in the dry food mix).

  • Avoid handling your hamster while it's pouches are full. If you absolutely have to, be very careful to avoid squeezing or gripping him around the pouch area (rather scoop him onto your hand and gently cup him with your other hand and let him climb off where you want to put him down).

  • Make sure all tubes and entrances to bedroom houses, hideaways, and forage boxes are wide enough for your hamster to get through easily with full pouches.

  • If your hamster is a manic pouch-stuffer, keep a close eye on him. 

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POUCH PROBLEMS
STRESS

STRESS & ANXIETY

You do want to ensure that your hamster has a relatively peaceful & calm existence, as stress and anxiety can result in a multitude of problems relating to lowered immunity, wet tail, fur loss along with skin problems, etc.

 

Living with this is not a happy life for the hamster. Try to find the cause of this stress and eliminate it as as soon as possible.

TYPICAL CAUSES:

  • Noisy disruptive zone where the hamster habitat is kept, e.g. screaming/loud children, dogs barking, loud music, habitat constantly being bumped, etc.

    • Move the habby to a more peaceful area of your home away from these disturbances!

  • Being too roughly handled causing fear and/or pain (particularly in the case of overly zealous children, or teenagers who think it funny to do stupid things with a hamster.

    • Remove the hamster from such humans and strictly supervise playtimes at all times.

    • Do not allow your child to pass the hamster around his/her group of friends like it's show-&-tell, or run around with it. It's not a toy!

  • Traumatic events such as change of ownership, particularly where the hamster was previously neglected or ill-treated, or from an unknowledgeable pet shop. Hamsters that have escaped the habitat and/or original home, and found running around lost, can be extremely stressed. 

    • Many rescued hamsters come from such backgrounds. Exercise patience, love, and understanding, and allow the hamster a few days to settle into your peaceful home and to build up trust with you.

    • Follow the tips on the Taming page.

  • Under-sized cages are a major cause of stress and anxiety. Boredom as a result of lack of space to provide enrichment will cause stress as the hamster will constantly be trying to escape the prison. The situation will not improve until you move the hamster to an appropriately sized habitat!

    • Please refer to the Housing page and get a proper or larger habitat.

  • Loud thunderstorms and fireworks. Your hamster has a keen sense of hearing and these bangs & crackings can make him frightened.

    • Follow the tips on the Weather Comfort page.

In addition to rectifying what is causing the stress or anxiety, your hamster may also benefit from other remedies such as a Bonding Pouch, CBD Oil, extra hides and enrichments.

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Highly effective in relieving stress and anxiety.

BONDING SCARF/SNOOD/POUCH can be very useful to comfort your anxious hamster. 

Also useful in the taming process to allow your hamster to become accustomed to being close to you without too much initial handling.

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PROTEXIN SOLUBLE (probiotic) boosts the immune system of hamsters.

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ANIMA-STRATH GRANULES are excellent for strengthening your pet’s immune system, encouraging healthy skin & fur growth, combating anxiety, etc.

BONDING SCARF
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FUR LOSS
VITAMIN DEFICIENCY
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FUR & SKIN PROBLEMS

Fur loss and skin issues can occur from time to time in many hamsters lives, causing concern for the owner. 

Although not always a huge emergency and usually easily treated/remedied, we still advise an initial checkup at an exotics vet instead of assuming or hoping it'll go away. If there is a medical issue behind bald spots or allergies, an early diagnosis and treatment will increase the odds of a good outcome.

NATURAL & COMMON REASONS:

MOLTING. Yes, hamsters molt during change of seasons, just like cat & dogs do, and can be more obvious in some than in others.

  • Generally this will appear as missing tufts or thin patches across most parts of the body.

  • A fair amount of shedded fur may be seen in the bedroom, wheel, and on most frequented objects in the habitat.

  • Most commonly occurs at the start of summer, but also during prolonged extreme heat conditions. However, molting can also occur due to sudden extreme temperature changes at any time of the year.

  • Make sure the room where your hamster stays at a more-or-less consistent temperature and never place the habitat in direct sunlight or drafts. If, due to our weather, you cannot maintain coolness or warmth in the room, see the Weather Comfort page for tips to help your hamster remain comfortable.

INCORRECT SAND or BEDDING.

  • Wood shavings, particularly pine, are a major cause of skin & fur problems. Ensure that you are using safe paper bedding.

  • Others could be sensitive to one of the recommended safe bedding substrates too, and changing to another safe brand could solve the problem.

  • Some hamsters can even be sensitive to certain sands, and it may be worth your while to try another type of sand, like plain reptile sand or import grade chinchilla sand. Obviously never use scented, silica sands, or sand from your yard or beach.

OLD AGE. Any time from 18 months onward, your hamster is considered to be senior. From about 2 years old is when fur loss can start being visible (some will start showing earlier than others, while some hamsters will never have fur loss, even at the very end).

  • Note that Cushings Disease is often mistaken for old age fur loss, as it can present similarly. You should therefore consult with your exotics vet to confirm.

  • Fur loss usually starts at the tummy and bum and works up to the hind quarters (back legs, hips, and bum) and can often then become patchy over the rest of the body. This is natural  due to loss of hormones and youthful condition.

  • The underlying skin may also become dry, scaly, and even hard due to inability to retain moisture. In worse cases, the area can become cracked, or scratched open by the hamster due to the itchiness, which results in bacteria entering the raw skin and causing a condition called dermatitis that will need to be treated by an exotics vet (steroid injection), including antibiotics if there is infection.

  • .Do not attempt to put ointments or creams on your hamster, unless instructed by an exotics vet, since the hamster could ingest these products during attempts at grooming and become ill. A humidifier in the room could assist in preventing severe moisture loss. 

  • There isn't always much that can be done, but you could increase foods and treats that can assist the skin & fur: Flaxseed oil, CBD Oil, ground hemp seed & flax/linseed, coconut flakes, oat flakes, wheatgerm, brown rice, and banana (only as a treat for dwarfs). More regular fresh veggies and fruit can also help in maintaining moisture to lessen the dryness.

FRICTION. Regular rubbing against the sides of the habitat and accessories, tubes that are too small, burrowing in hard bedding substrates, narrow wheels, tight entrances to bedrooms and hideys, bedroom too small, etc. can also cause fur loss due to the constant friction in those spots. 

  • Ensure that your hamster has appropriate sized natural tubes, e.g. cardboard, wood, or cork bark (those plastic hamster tubes are unhealthy, and also too small for Syrian hamsters). 

  • Get a wider, more open wheel that your hamsters sides won't be able to rub against (most noticeably on one or both hips). See the Wheels page.

  • Soft safe paper bedding is a must. Wood shavings are hard and abrasive.

  • Make the openings on hide-outs are large and species-appropriate.

  • Do not use plastic houses as the bedroom. Besides the entrances being way too small and a squeeze to get in and out of, there is little space for movement within and fur can become worn when your hamster cannot easily change positions and will tend to stay in one position only. Plastic containers & igloos also create condensation & humidity from the hamster's body heat, cause skin issues too.

  • Rather provide a suitably sized cardboard box with front cut open for decent ventilation. See Bedrooms for good info.

  • Do ensure that there is a LOT of stripped up 1-ply toilet paper for your hamster to make the bedroom/nest soft and comfortable. REMINDER: NEVER USE FLUFFY OR WOOLLY NESTING MATERIALS as these are dangerous.

If there are no signs of improvement within 5-7 days after applying any of the suggestions, or the condition gets worse at any stage, or keeps recurring, PLEASE GO TO YOUR NEAREST EXOTICS VET ASAP!

Allergy or other tests may be required to determine the cause.

SERIOUS CAUSES

VITAMIN & NUTRITION DEFICIENCY. ​ Incorrect diet often causes fur loss, among other medical issues, due to lack of vitamin B and balance.

  • Hamsters living on a diet with lots of sunflower seeds, peanuts, mealworms, and corn, not only tend to suffer obesity and fatty liver disease, but this kind of a fatty diet results in the body being unable to absorb certain vital vitamins and minerals. You may think your hamster is nice and chubby, but he's actually suffering from malnutrition and slowly getting ill. 

  • If your hamster is on a cheap, poor quality dry food mix, it is vital that you start weaning him onto one of the high quality brands immediately! 

  • Proteins! Although they don't require a huge steak or entire chicken, a complete lack of proteins is a major cause for fur problems. Hamsters are omnivores, NOT vegans or vegetarians! Please do not enforce your preferences/principals on your hamster; you need to find a way to provide suitable proteins.

  • Besides a variety of proteins, ensure that your hamster also receives a VARIETY of fresh vegetables and fruits at least 3 times a week (fruits only as occasional treats for dwarfs). 

  • The addition of flax/linseed and hemp seeds can assist in the recovery of lost nutrients, and are generally good for skin and fur. These can be ground to ensure better absorption in the digestive system (mix into or sprinkled over fresh foods).

  • Treats with the meals, like coconut flakes, oat flakes, wheatgerm, brown rice, and banana are also good to provide vitamin B and can improve and maintain condition.

  • Nutritional Yeast (de-bittered brewers yeast) works wonders in cases of non-blight* related fur loss, but please do not confuse this with bakers' or IDY yeast. Drop a pinch onto the food daily for two weeks. After two weeks reduce the amount to thrice weekly for two weeks, then twice weekly, if you still feel it's necessary at all. It loses effectiveness if too much is fed over too long a period and is also a lot for the ham to digest - potent and nutritious, but powerful. ANIMA STRATH GRANULES contain good yeast and a variety of other nutritional elements, and works incredibly well with fur loss. (*Blight ~ if your hamster has or has ever suffered from Pyometra, ovarian/uterine problems, kidney, or bladder issues, please check with your exotics vet first if yeast is advisable.) 

  • Hamster-safe CBD OIL as a regular general supplement can also be beneficial for fur and skin.

  • NEVER USE 'HAMSTER TONIC' SOLD IN PET SHOPS!

PARASITES.  Mites, fleas, or ringworm will also cause fur loss, most commonly on the upper body, along the back, and around the head/neck area.

(Refer to the topics further up for details)

  • These issues are treatable but need to be tended to as soon as possible to prevent major infestation that can become a serious threat to the hamster's health, comfort, & life.

  • If he is generally in good health, mite treatment can be applied simply as a precaution and to eliminate one possibility of fur loss. 

TUMOURS (T-CELL LYMPHOMA).

  • Usually visible as an inflamed lump with hair loss over it and is most commonly found in older hamsters, but other skin and hair follicle tumors can also occur in hamsters of any age.

  • Any lump or bump should be seen to by your exotics vet as soon as you notice it as early diagnosis may be treatable and could save your hamster's life.

  • CDB Oil treatment may assist with pain and slowing down the progression of the disease (see Supplements page).

POOR HYGIENE (not necessarily in your care, but some rescued and pet shop hamsters come from filthy conditions). 

  • A hamster in a dirty environment have a high probability of developing skin & fur conditions and, just as worrisome, may abandon its normal grooming habits, which leads to a slow deterioration of skin and coat. Clean the habitat and treat the hamster for mites (topic further up) as a first precaution, and follow the vitamin & nutrition deficiency info above - a healthy diet will boost the hamster's immunity and give it a better, faster chance of recovery. 

  • Ensure that there is a sand potty with safe sand for the hamster to bathe itself and pee in, and that all urine spots are cleaned out EVERY day!

  • Urine elsewhere in the habitat needs to be cleaned regularly, including soiled bedding and the underlying surface, as well as the bedroom & wheel, in order to prevent urine scald. Ammonia toxicity resulting from urine accumulation & inadequate ventilation also brings about a whole new problem!

  • Spot-cleaning is essential for hygiene, but avoid too-frequent full habitat cleans since this leads to stress for the hamster, as well as over-scenting, which also leads to fur loss.

STRESS & ANXIETY can result in a multitude of problems, including fur loss and skin problems (see related topic further above).

ALLERGIES can also be a cause of issues (see topic further down).

CUSHINGS DISEASE, often misdiagnosed as old-age loss of skin & fur condition. Please ask your exotics vet to confirm which it is (see Cushings topic below)

TUMORS / CANCER

There are many types of cancers / tumors that can befall our hamsters at any age, affecting skin, hair follicles, organs, etc. some treatable and some sadly fatal. 

T-CELL LYMPHOMA is probably the most common of cancers/tumors in hamstersUsually visible as an inflamed lump with hair loss over it and is most commonly found in older hamsters.

 

Any lump or bump should be seen to by your exotics vet as soon as you notice it...early diagnosis may be treatable and could save your hamster's life.

CDB Oil treatment may assist with pain and slowing down the progression of the disease.

 

It is difficult to cover all types, but we will add as they come to light in our SA community and we do more research on those.

TUMORS
cushings disease

CUSHINGS DISEASE

This is an abnormality of the adrenal gland (situated next to the kidneys) where one or both glands will produce too much cortisol.

  • This disease is often misdiagnosed, even by experienced vets, due to similar symptoms of old age or diabetes/kidney problems, since it is most common to present as the hamster gets older (very rarely under 14 months old).

  • There are no preventative measures to ensure that your hamster does not develop Cushings.

  • There are no environmental factors that can increase or decrease your hamster’s chances of getting it.

  • Cushings is not contagious.

  • It appears to mainly affect Syrian hamsters.

If you suspect that your hamster may have Cushings, you need to get him to your exotics vet ASAP (and mention that you suspect it), as early diagnosis and special care can often help your hamster cope with it and still live a reasonably long life.

  • There may not be any veterinary medication to help manage the disease in hamsters. Unlike for cats and dogs, the medication is too strong for hamsters, although it could be possible to prescribe a much lower dosage. Your exotics vet will be able to advise. Mitotane/metyrapone has been used overseas, but may or may not be effective.

  • CDB Oil treatment can assist in slowing down the progression of the disease and help your hamster feel more comfortable.

CARE

  • As the disease progresses further, your hamster will most likely sleep more and be less inclined to want as much play time as he did before, but will still need your love and attention. He may look different, but won't understand if you neglect him and the depression won't help him.

  • A healthy diet is vital, now more than ever, with a high quality dry food mix and fresh foods.

  • Invest in an appropriate CBD Oil as a supplement. 

  • Initially, he may not appear to be in any discomfort or pain, aside from itching due to the dry skin. Speak to your exotics vet, but CBD Oil will help.

  • Provide extra nesting material for warmth and comfort (scrunched strips of 1-ply toilet paper or soft paper bedding).

  • Move the habitat to a peaceful, stress-free, quieter area of your home.

  • Remove sharp, rough toys, such as wooden objects, as the exposed skin is delicate and vulnerable. Wounds and scabs caused by the disease will develop and you should not feel guilty, as long as the toys aren’t sharp or rough.

  • The limbs will become stiffer and he will have difficulty in moving about, so do remove any platforms and ramps, and move everything onto the lower level with the essentials close together. You could move him to a smaller habitat, like a bin cage  when he becomes seriously inactive.

SYMPTOMS

  • Hair loss usually begins in one or more of the following places:

    • The underside of the hamster, near the genitals.

    • On both sides of the body.

    • Around the scent glands on the hips.

    • Just above the tail.

    • The back of the neck.

    • The hair loss progresses quite rapidly, until almost all hair on the rear end and belly is lost, leaving a few tufts here and there. 

    • Eventually all hair MAY fall out, but they usually don't go completely bald.

    • The head is the last place where hair loss occurs.

  • Other symptoms can include all of some of the following:

    • Noticeable increase of water consumption and urinating.

    • Sometimes a dramatic increase in appetite. 

    • Weight loss.

    • Loose skin and dry, flaky skin.

    • Wasting of the skeletal muscles, resulting in impaired movement.

    • Dark pigment patches on the skin (not the normal scent patches).

    • Cuts, scabs or wounds on the skin, which may become infected.

    • Fatty lumps that may resemble small tumor-like growths.

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~ Pictures courtesy of Harvey Hams ~

FINAL STAGES

Not many hamsters pass away naturally & peacefully from Cushings Disease. There will eventually be suffering and it is best to have them mercifully euthanised.

Typical signs that it is time:

  • Large, numerous, infected cuts and wounds have developed.

  • Movement has become impaired (stiffness and/or limping).

  • Most of the time is spent sitting hunched over, and even rocking, appearing like they are falling asleep (they are, in fact, in pain).

PLEASE DO NOT LET YOUR HAMSTER SUFFER TO A HORRIBLE END!

ALLERGIES

Sneezing, watery discharge from the eyes resulting in sticky eyes, running wet nose, breathing problems, persistent and frequent itching, fur loss, or red & sore bald patches, swollen red feet, etc. may be indications of an allergic reaction.

However, some of these symptoms (sneezing, running nose, or breathing problems) can also be cold, flu, or respiratory infection, and should therefore be seen to by a vet immediately, since the process of elimination for allergies can be too lengthy before you realise that it's not an allergy!

MOST LIKELY CAUSES OF ALLERGIES

SUBSTRATES:

  • Pine shavings are notorious for causing problems for hamsters. The phenols cause irritation and allergies that not only affect respiratory tracts and eyes, but also skin and fur, resulting in excessive scratching, fur loss, skin abrasions that can become infected, or swollen red feet. Kiln drying pine shavings apparently does not successfully remove all of the phenols, so that will not work either. Please change to a safe paper bedding substrate immediately.

  • Wood shavings or hay are brittle substrates that break down easily, causing dust particles that will cause allergies and respiratory infections. Please change to the recommended safe substrates for bedding (paper based) and enrichment (Chipsi Digging/Snake or prepared Cocopeat).

  • Scented beddings and sand are also known to cause problems that relate to allergies. Some of these scents are even imitations of foods and substances that are not safe for hamsters, e.g. citrus fruits, pine, baby powder, etc. NEVER USE SCENTED SUBSTRATES!

  • Similarly, please check what types of colourants are used in some substrates & accessories, and foods. Definitely avoid coloured sands and food.  

  • Although black ink on modern day newspapers is apparently non-toxic, it is also not recommended due to the strong smell, which may irritate the nasal passages and eyes. The residue rubbing off onto the hamster's fur and feet, may also not be great for your hamster to ingest during grooming. Colour inks on the advert pull-outs, and magazines are incredibly toxic for hamsters and will cause kidney and liver problems. 

  • Some hays, grasses (particularly regular lawn), and flowers that some of us may like to use as bedding toppers can cause issues in allergy prone hamsters.

  • If you are already using a safe bedding substrate, try changing to one of the other safe brands. BUT, only try one brand at a time to try and eliminate the one that could be causing the problem (if you use several at the same time, you will not know which one is the guilty party).

In worse case scenarios, where the hamster appears to be allergic to all commercial beddings it could be an allergy to dust and, unfortunately, not even the safest substrates are 100% dust-free. In such extreme cases, we suggest that you try the home-made bedding out of kitchen wipes (Some vets will recommend cat litter pellets as bedding but, unfortunately, these are not very comfortable for the hamster's feet and do not allow burrowing, so perhaps try the kitchen wipes bedding first).

HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS:

  • Household detergents and furniture polishes can result in allergies and skin problems, particularly heavily scented and aerosol types.

  • Never use bleach/Jik to clean porous accessories as it soaks in and cannot be rinsed out properly. If you do use bleach for other accessories or the inside of the habitat, make sure every trace of residue is properly rinsed off. Safest cleaning method: hot water with ordinary dishwashing liquid works well enough, rinsed/soaked with vinegar water (will remove soap residue and kill off any remaining bacteria), and rinsed again thoroughly in plain clean water.

  • Some washing powders and fabric softeners can also cause allergies, just as they do with some humans. While these may not be severe enough to cause skin/fur problems for your hamster, if there is any sneezing during cuddle times, you may want to consider the product you're using, or simply have one or two shirts that are not washed with these, which you can reserve for wearing during for hamster handling times.

  • Cigarette smoke is harmful to hamsters. Do not have your hamster in the same room where you smoke. Similarly, the smoke on your clothes can also cause allergic reactions, but you can simply have one or two clean "unsmoked" shirts reserved for wearing during hamster handling times. And do wash your hands before you handle the hamster if you've just put out that ciggie.

  • Aerosols (insect sprays, air fresheners, etc.) can also cause allergies that will not only affect the respiratory system, but can also cause skin and fur problems. Refrain from using such products in the hamster's room or when you are handling the hamster. 

  • Even your perfume and fragranced hand or body soaps & washes, can affect your hamster's skin, nose and eyes, so make sure you are as plain as possible around your hamster, or avoid handling while you are freshly fragranced.

FOOD ALLERGIES:

Your hamster can also be allergic/intolerant or sensitive to certain foods or ingredients. If the substrates and household product possibilities have been eliminated and the issues continue, you may be dealing with a food allergy.

  • Ingredients in hamster dry food mixes that cause allergies are artificial food colourants, flavourants, and preservatives. Avoid mixes that are coloured (particularly those with pretty coloured pellets). You should not be giving a brand of food that contains artificial things and pellets, anyway!

  • Other common allergy foods that can be in hamster mixes, treats, or even in your own pantry are nuts, egg, wheat products, honey, cheese & dairy, hay, grass, and flowers. Gluten could even be a problem in extreme cases.

If you suspect a food allergy, you will need to start a process of elimination (be patient): 

  • Cut out all the ingredients from the diet that are typically synonymous with food allergies for about 2 weeks.

  • If the elimination of all the typical allergy food items resolves the issue, slowly start introducing them back to the hamster, one type at a time for two weeks each, until you discover which one/s bring back the allergy. Then you need to avoid that ingredient/s for the rest of the hamster's life. 

If none of the above suggestions show signs of improvement, or the condition gets worse at any stage,

PLEASE GO TO YOUR NEAREST EXOTICS VET ASAP!